French drivers have long preferred diesel cars for their good fuel economy, but increased air pollution from diesel exhaust emissions has become a public health concern.

That has led French officials to consider measures to curtail the use of diesels, particularly older models built before even rudimentary modern emissions standards were enacted.

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One plan previously discussed was an incentive program that would pay owners of those older, dirtier diesels to switch to electric cars.

That program will now commence in April, paying drivers up to 10,000 euros ($11,422) to switch to electric cars, according to Automotive News Europe (subscription required).

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

2013 Renault Zoe electric car

The program will focus on cars that are more than 13 years old, French energy minister Segolene Royal said late last week.

These are of a particularly polluting type that hasn't been sold in the U.S. since the 1990s, and represent just one segment of the legions of diesel cars on French roads.

Beginning this year, new diesels sold in France and other European countries now have to comply with stricter Euro 6 emissions standards, equivalent to standards adopted by the U.S. back in 2008.

ALSO SEE: Days Numbered For Dirtiest Diesels In Europe; France To Phase Out Diesel Fuel

The conversion bonus is a 3,700 euro incentive on top of an existing 6,300 euro environmental bonus for purchasing a new electric car--yielding the discussed 10,000 euro bonus, according to Green Car Congress.

That drops the price of a Nissan Leaf in France to 14,390 euros, or about $16,238 at current exchange rates.

The French government will also offer 2,500 euros to drivers who switch from an older diesel to a plug-in hybrid. That's on top of an existing 4,000 euro environmental bonus, for 6,500 euros in savings.

A 500 euro incentive will also be offered for switching from one of the older diesels to a new model that complies with the Euro 6 standards.

2007 Peugeot 308

2007 Peugeot 308

The new incentive program follows other recent measures to curb diesel cars, which make up about two thirds of the French fleet.

Back in December, the government announced plans to raise the so-called TICPE excise tax, decreasing diesel's tax advantage over gasoline.

Next year, France is also expected to launch an identification system that will rank vehicles by the amount of pollution they emit.

This could allow municipal officials to limit city-center access to the worst-polluting cars.


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